BROWN DEER -- Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik jumped into the race for Wisconsin governor, becoming the first significant Democrat to do so.
In an interview, Gronik criticized Walker for collecting a government paycheck since he was a young adult. In contrast, Gronik said his own experience leading appraisal and consulting companies makes him the candidate who can attract high-paying jobs to Wisconsin.
"He's a politician. I'm a guy who's actually helped people create jobs. Do I think I can sell that? I know I can sell that," Gronik said. "My skill set is exactly what Wisconsin needs right now."
Gronik has a difficult road ahead, first in the Democratic primary, and then if he advances to face Walker, who has already raised millions of dollars.
Speaking at a Winnebago County farm on Tuesday, July 11th, Walker downplayed his new challenger.
"I don’t know much about him," Walker told reporters. "Like most people in this state, I’d only recently heard about him. I’d not heard about him until you all in the media started reporting on him even thinking about it."
Joe Fadness, Walker's campaign manager, released a memo after Gronik's announcement that says the governor has established "clear dominance headed in 2018" and already has $2.4 million on hand -- more than he had this time in 2013.
Walker said he won't make it official that he's running for a third term until he signs the state budget, which is now 11 days late and counting.
"To me, the timing of when there may be an announcement really isn't a factor. We're going to continue to sell the state," Walker said.
Gronik draws comparisons to 2014 Democratic nominee Mary Burke -- a businesswoman who, like Gronik, had scant political experience.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee said that presents a challenge, especially if other Democrats enter the race.
"What he really needs to do is differentiate himself from Ms. Burke. He has to show he's a different kind of candidate from one who already lost to Gov. Walker," Lee said.
In an interview with FOX6 News, Gronik praised Burke but said he's his own candidate.
Gronik did not sign the 2012 recall petition against Walker, which could become an issue in the Democratic primary because several other Democrats considering the race did sign the petition.
Gronik has said he doesn't think the recall will be a litmus test for Democratic voters. He says he's opposed to Act 10, Walker's signature law that ended most collective bargaining rights for many public workers that sparked the recall effort.
Gronik said he plans to invest some of his personal wealth in the race, but says he needs help from donors to counter Walker's fundraising.